Eyes on horizon will put us in good space

Chris Capon, centre, with Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke and flight director Gerry Griffin.
Chris Capon, centre, with Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke and flight director Gerry Griffin.

July 2019 marks 50 years since the first moon landing. It was a momentous event in history, held up to this day as an example of human accomplishment.

Yet in 1969, few could have imagined the role space would play in our everyday lives. It connects us and provides essential data that makes even our routine activities possible, from banking and internet access to simply knowing where we are.

It helps us build better bridges, train networks and other local and national infrastructure and helps everyone from truck drivers to your local Uber driver navigate congested cities - reducing travel times, lowering fuel usage, and improving economic outcomes and quality of life.

Looking forward, investment in next-generation space systems will be essential to future-proof ourselves against the challenges we will face as a global community; from improving efficiencies to balancing population growth with resource availability, to better managing natural resources and ensuring everyone has access to clean water without conflict.

A vibrant Australian space industry should be a part that story, both for our own economic security and as responsible global citizens.

Australia is ideally located as a prime location for space innovation. The country's unique geometry covers one-third of Earth's rotation.

Technological changes in space infrastructure are also opening the door for Australia to become global leaders in the space domain.

While space systems have traditionally been large and expensive, the shift to constellations of many smaller systems provide a new level of agility to space research and development.

This provides Australia with an unprecedented pathway to capture new opportunities and meet global challenges.

At UNSW Canberra Space, we have embraced the agility at the core of what is generally termed "NewSpace" or "Space 2.0" to develop innovative space capabilities that address real-world problems.

Applying state-of-the-art advances in a wide range of fields, from artificial intelligence to advanced 3D printing techniques, we take mission concepts through design, manufacture, build and test phases all the way to the operation of on-orbit spacecraft.

The expertise and capabilities developed through these missions then feeds directly back into teaching the next generation of space professionals by providing unique opportunities to engage with real missions.

Dr Chris Capon is a Research Associate at UNSW Canberra Space.